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Tesla unveils new battery which could revolutionise energy markets

01 May 2015

On May 1, US electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors unveiled a range of low-cost batteries capable of powering homes, businesses and even utilities. Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, said the wall-mounted battery, dubbed  ‘Powerwall’,  could store solar or wind energy and provide what he described as the “missing piece” in the transition to a sustainable energy world.

Tesla Powerwall unit and electric car
Tesla Powerwall unit and electric car

The lithium-ion batteries are designed to capture and store up to 10kWh of energy from a wind turbine or solar panel with reserves drawn when sunlight is low, during grid outages, or at peak demand times, when electricity costs are highest. An average Western European home would use around a third of the battery’s charge capacity in a day.

Musk said the devices would allow consumers to harness energy independently, rather than rely on a power grid. The technology would slash energy bills and could provide enough electricity to meet the world’s needs, the billionaire technology entrepreneur claimed. The units are Internet-connectable, so smart micro-grids can be established.

Speaking at a launch event at a Tesla facility in California, Musk described the batteries as a “fundamental transformation [in] how energy is delivered across the earth”. 

The Powerwall comes in a 7kWh version ($3,000) and a 10kWh version ($3,500), both far cheaper than alternative designs. The first version is 1.3m by 68cm, small enough to be hung inside a garage or on an outside wall, with up to nine able to be linked up for home use.

Musk said that Tesla will also be selling batteries to utilities, with 100kWh units scalable up to multi-gigawatt-hour plants. The compact nature of the units was one of their chief USPs for domestic, business and utility customers, he said.

The Tesla CEO said the units had the ability to be “a critical step in this mission to enable zero emission power generation”.

The batteries will initially be built at the electric car company’s factory in California, but will transfer production to a planned $5 billion Tesla Energy ‘gigafactory’ in Nevada when it opens in 2017. This facility will be the largest producer of lithium-ion batteries in the world, which should further drive down costs.

“With Tesla Energy, Tesla is amplifying its efforts to accelerate the move away from fossil fuels to a sustainable energy future with Tesla batteries,” he said, “enabling homes, business, and utilities to store sustainable and renewable energy to manage power demand, provide back-up power and increase grid resilience.”

Tesla is already taking orders for Powerwall, with the first units expected to be ready in August. Apart from outright purchase, leasing will also be an option.
 


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